[ditty_news_ticker id="27897"] OCL 36th Annual Meeting and Conference Recap: Orthodox Unity, Grant, Board Development, Notable Speakers - Orthodox Christian Laity

OCL 36th Annual Meeting and Conference Recap: Orthodox Unity, Grant, Board Development, Notable Speakers


Source: Orthodox Christian Laity

OCL Board Members meeting in the Library at Saints Peter & Paul Parish

The 36th Annual Meeting of the Orthodox Christian Laity (OCL) took place on October 20, 2023, in the beautiful Library of Saints Peter and Paul Greek Orthodox Church in Glenview, IL. The 3-hour meeting, presided over by President Bill Souvall, covered a range of important topics, including Orthodox Christian unity, financial reports, and board development. Here’s a summary of the key points from the meeting:

Prayer for Orthodox Unity: The meeting began with a prayer for Orthodox Unity in America, emphasizing the importance of the unity of the Orthodox Christian community in America, spiritually and administratively.

David Oancea, Executive Director, presented a written report and highlighted some of the main Accomplishments of 2022/2023, since the annual meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, on October 14, 2022, Orthodox Christian Laity:

President’s Report: Bill Souvall recapped the year’s events and focused discussion on potential new board members, emphasizing the importance of remaining open to new ideas while maintaining OCL’s founding principles and mission.

Financials: The board reviewed the Financial Summary for the year and approved the proposed budget of $129,600 for 2024.

Hellenic Foundation 2023 Grant Award
The Board expressed gratitude to the Hellenic Foundation of Chicago for awarding the grant to update OCL’s archives at DePaul University and enhance online access. 

Peter E. Valessares, Executive Director of the Hellenic Foundation of Chicago, addresses Conference participants.

Strategic Planning, Board Recruitment, and Networking: Bill Souvall chaired a lengthy and productive discussion on recruiting board members and enhancing communication.

Nomination of Executive Board and Committee for 2024 The board unanimously accepted the slate of names for the 2024 executive board and committee: Officers: William Souvall (President), Dr. Gayle E. Woloschak (Vice-President), William Caras (Vice-President), Argo Georgandis Pyle (Secretary), George D. Karcazes (Treasurer), George Matsoukas (Executive Director Emeritus), Board Members: Alexander Billinis, Alice O. Kopan, Sbdn Stratos Mandalakis, Peter J. Petkas, George C. Pontikes.

The meeting was an important gathering for OCL, focusing on Orthodox unity, financials, and future board development. With new board members and grant opportunities, OCL is poised to continue its mission of promoting unity, lay advocacy, transparency, and accountability within the Orthodox Christian community in America.

Friday Evening
Following the meeting, George and Roula Karcazes welcomed Board members and Saturday’s speakers to their home for a wonderful dinner and warm fellowship.

George & Roula Karcazes

OCL Board and Conference Speakers enjoying dinner at the Karcazes home

Day Two Highlights: Notable Speakers and Discussions

The second day of the 36th Annual Meeting and Conference of the Orthodox Christian Laity (OCL) held on October 21, 2023, was filled with insightful presentations and discussions. The day’s program was packed with engaging sessions and prominent speakers who touched on various aspects of Orthodox Christian unity in America, its challenges, and its future. Here’s a summary of the highlights from the day:

Continental Breakfast and Fellowship
The day began with a continental breakfast and a warm atmosphere of fellowship among attendees.

Continental Breakfast table

Welcome and Greetings

Fr. Richard Demetrius Andrews, Parish Priest of Saints Peter and Paul Parish, led the participants in an opening prayer and welcomed OCL to the parish.

Following the opening prayer, Fr. Richard Andrews welcomes the Conference participants to the parish.

William Souvall, OCL President, extended a warm welcome to all attendees, setting the stage for an informative and engaging day.

OCL President, Bill Souvall, welcomes participants. The three speakers flank him (L-R): Archpriest Bohdan Hladio, Fr. Nicholas Greanias and Alexander Billinis.

Fr. Nicholas Anton, representing the Assembly of Bishops USA, greeted the participants, emphasizing the importance of unity within the Orthodox Christian community, and provided a slide presentation on the Inter-Parish Associations Project.

Fr. Nicholas Anton brings a greeting from the Assembly of Bishops USA and makes a presentation about the National Inter-Parish Association (IPA) Project.

Following the address, President Souvall presented Fr. Anton with a $1,000 donation from OCL toward the project.

OCL President Bill Souvall presents Fr. Nicholas Anton with a donation to the IPA Project. Dr. Gayle Woloschak, OCL Vice-President and Panel Moderator stands at the lectern.

The Speaker Sessions

Fr. Bohdan Hladio

Rev. Archpriest Bohdan Hladio: An Orthodox priest and former Chancellor of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada, Fr. Hladio, who is currently a PhD student at the Toronto School of Theology, Trinity College, delved into the topic of “Orthodox Unity, Evangelism, and the Problem of Universal Jurisdiction.” His presentation shed light on the challenges and opportunities for unity within the Orthodox Church in the United States and Canada.

Professor Alexander Billinis

Professor Alexander Billinis: A lecturer at Clemson University and a well-known author, attorney, and advocate for Greek culture and heritage, Professor Billinis took the stage to share his experiences in “An Orthodox Layman’s Journeys to the Mother Churches.” His journey provided insights into the connection between Orthodox laypeople and the Mother Churches.

Fr. Nicholas Greanias

Rev. Fr. Nicholas Greanias: A Parish Priest at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, Kankakee, IL, and a retired diplomat and foreign service officer from the U.S. State Department, Fr. Greanias discussed “An American Orthodox Diplomat Views the Post Cold-War Orthodox World.” His perspective as a diplomat and a priest offered unique insights into the Orthodox world in the post-Cold War era.

Panel Members (L-R): Dr. Gayle Woloschak, Fr. Bohdan Hladio, Fr. Nicholas Greanias, Alexander Billinis

Panel Discussion
Following the individual presentations, Dr. Gayle Woloschak, a professor of Radiation Oncology, Radiology, and Cell and Molecular Biology at Northwestern University, president of the Orthodox Christian Mission Center, and Vice-President of the International Orthodox Theological Association, moderated a panel discussion with the three speakers. This interactive session allowed for a deeper exploration of the topics presented, encouraging questions and insights from the audience.

Participants continued the discussion with speakers and other attendees.

The second day of OCL’s Annual event offered attendees valuable insights into the challenges and opportunities facing Orthodox Christianity in America, along with inspiring discussions. The dynamic speakers and engaging panel discussions made for a memorable and informative event. Video recordings of the presentations will be posted on OCL’s YouTube Channel.

OCL wishes to thank: Metropolitan Nathanael of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago for his blessing to hold the meeting at Saints Peter & Paul Parish in Glenview, IL; Fr. Richard Andrews; Elea Valessares Bentley (Parish Administrator); George Burbules (producer of Livestream Ministry); Patty Damisch (organizer of the continental breakfast); and others who assisted with organizing the coffee hour sponsored by OCL following the Divine Liturgy on Sunday.

Finally, thank you to William Caras, a Vice-President of the OCL Board, who provided all of the photos for this article.



  1. Peter Ray Millman on

    Mr. Karcazes,
    No offense intended, but you have a beautiful wife, and a lovely home. I especially like all the icons in your dining room. May I ask how long you and your gorgeous wife have been married? May you both have many more fruitful and productive lives together.

  2. George D. Karcazes on

    Thank you, Peter!

    We’ve been married 53 years.. one son, one daughter, both married.. four grandsons.. two each.

    Icons from maternal great grandmother’s village in Greece.. cleaned (soot and wax buildup) and restored by art conservator in Chicago.

    Hopefully the video of the program will be available soon so the wider Orthodox audience will be able to hear the speakers, panel discussion and Q&A from this year’s successful Annual Conference.

  3. I respectfully would like to note the following:

    1) Former GOYANs, (and I am one of them) from the era prior to the enthronement of the late Archbishop Iakovos, the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of both North and South America, are responsible for founding OCL as an independent organization unaffiliated to any of the many jurisdictions in the United States.

    2) GOYA was once an independent Orthodox Christian youth organization until the enthronement of the late Archbishop Iakovos who coopted it under the auspices of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South. America. This was a very contentious decision that was unsuccessfully challenged by GOYA. The hierarchs at that time were loud and threatening.

    3) Today we are fortunate to have OCL speak freely for Orthodox Christians in the United States without it being censored by any jurisdiction or hierarch. This is because the founders of OCL were former GOYANS who understood the importance of our faith for the new world.

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